Anniversary party kicks off season
The Classical Theatre Company (CTC), Texas’ only theater company devoted entirely to performing classical theater year-round, celebrated its fifth year anniversary on Thursday at their offices with the Houston Arts Alliance.
Founded by Executive Artistic Director John Johnston in late 2006, the CTC has strived to meet the needs of a niche that was previously unfilled.
“My initial thought was, I looked at the initial landscape in Houston — theatrically — and I felt that, for being the fourth largest city in the United States, Houston desperately needed a company whose sole purpose was to produce classical theater,” Johnston said.
Though they began in 2007 with only a single reading, the CTC now performs up to three shows and two readings a year, and all of plays are at least 100 years old.
Their shows have ranged from popular works such as Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” to lesser-known titles like Colley Cibber’s “Love’s Last Shift.” The plays are often tweaked and twisted with different settings and details, bringing a modern spin on classical works.
“I think everybody gets scared of classical, because they think of lifted language and no laughing, and it couldn’t be further from the truth,” said Carol Phillips, an advisory board member.
“I think the real kind of fun thing for me is that no matter how things change, the plays always remain the same because it’s all about love and family and fear and the big issues. And somehow the big issues that were a hundred years ago are still relevant now, and how cool is it to be able to see them.”
Despite Houston’s size, the actors’ salaries are the third highest in the city. Sets are minimalized and the artistic team is forced to think creatively in order to adhere to budget.
“The quality of production is something that we tried right off the bat to achieve. I feel like our productions have had a pretty steady through-line from the beginning of a very high quality, at least in performance,” CTC Communications Director Blair Knowles said.
“That’s interesting because if you perform well, the audience is entertained and engaged. Beautiful scenery and costumes have a wow factor for about five seconds, and then you’ve seen them already, and it’s just there. But if the performances are top-notch, then you’re entertained for the whole two hours.”
The CTC was opened just before the current economic crisis and has had an even tighter budget as a result. But the company has persevered and will soon be opening their own performance hall.
“Quite honestly, just getting this far through the economic conditions that were existing is probably the accomplishment that I’m most proud of,” Johnston said.
CTC’s next show, “Miss Julie,” originally written by August Strinberg and now directed by Julia Traber, will be featured Sept. 26 through Oct. 14.